Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, December 23, 2019

Sally Rohrer, MPA

Fiona Montie, left, and Sally Rohrer at the Memorial Union Terrace Fiona Montie, left, and Sally Rohrer at the Memorial Union Terrace

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Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2019

Professional/research interests
Economic and tax policy

Expected graduation date
May 2020

Why an MPA?
My interest in public policy was sparked when I studied for a semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. I took classes on health economics and the welfare state and witnessed the power and potential that policy has in making people better off.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a Danish student who was studying in Madison; he asked me why we “let” people be homeless. It was a reminder that everything is a choice and that we also have the choice to create policies that help people, rather than turning a blind eye.

After studying in Denmark, I was interested in gaining policy expertise so that I could have the skills to build policies that make people better off.

Career goals
My career goal is to fight for policies and candidates that help people and strengthen our democracy. Throughout my time as a student in Madison, I have focused on improving voter accessibility and combating policies that amount to voter suppression. I would love to continue working to help people vote, especially in the run-up to the November 2020 election.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
I am the District 8 alder for the City of Madison, representing campus and a large portion of students. I owe a lot of my ability to understand and interpret policy to the classes I’ve taken through the La Follette as well as the various policy-related internships I’ve had. Specifically,  State and Local Government Finance (PA 891) was absolutely essential for building my understanding of public finance and local taxation, especially in Wisconsin.

Project assistantship
I am the shared governance project assistant for Associated Students of Madison (ASM), the student government on campus. I was involved in ASM as an undergraduate student and have loved working with students in this new capacity to advance student governance on campus and empower student voices.

Summer internship
I was an intern for Congresswoman Gwen Moore in Washington, DC, as part of the Wisconsin in Washington program.

 Primary job responsibilities
The Congresswoman’s office gave interns a lot of freedom to work on policy projects that particularly interested us. Because of my interest in economic and tax policy and because the Congresswoman serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, I spent most of my time working with the Congresswoman’s tax counsel to analyze and craft policy and talking points for Congresswoman Moore. I also wrote letters to constituents, attended many policy briefings, and answered phones.

Sample internship project
My favorite project was an ongoing battle against the repeal of state and local tax deductions in the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act. The repeal of these deductions disproportionately hurts states that rely on state and local government taxes to provide great services to residents by not allowing residents to deduct those taxes from their federal taxes. I wrote memos, talking points, and worked with the tax counsel to determine the effects that the deduction repeal would have on Wisconsin.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students
Find someone in the Madison community who is doing something that you find interesting and engaging and get involved! This city is full of brilliant and inspiring people who I have learned just as much from as I have in the classroom.

The Wisconsin Idea
The Wisconsin Idea has guided my time as a student at UW–Madison. To me, the Wisconsin Idea is turning ideas and knowledge gained at this institution into meaningful actions that make someone, somewhere better off.

As a freshman, I took a service-learning class on Citizenship, Democracy and Difference that really catapulted me into a larger understanding of the purpose of an education as something that isn’t just meant to benefit an individual. From there, I really focused my studies on what I was doing outside of the classroom.

While I was working on a statewide voting rights campaign, I took a class on Voting and Election Reforms with Professor Barry Burden. I also took a class on Labor Economics that informed my time interning for the local Labor Council. Now, the State and Local Government Finance class informed my understanding of the city budget as a city alder.

I’m really grateful that UW–Madison and the La Follette School emphasize this ideology and actually follow through on practicing it.

People would be surprised if they knew that I …
used to be a summer camp counselor. Best job ever!